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Thread: Construction of the Viking Shield

  1. #1

    Construction of the Viking Shield

    Anyone know how the Viking shield was traditionally constructed? If anyone knows of a website that details the making of a Viking shield that would be greatly appreciated as well.

  2. #2
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    Smile Re: Construction of the Viking Shield

    Originally posted by Dane Madsen
    Anyone know how the Viking shield was traditionally constructed? If anyone knows of a website that details the making of a Viking shield that would be greatly appreciated as well.
    Hi Dane. I asked the same kind of question awhile ago and was given this link:

    http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chris...ld/shield.html

    I hope it will help you!
    Tobias

    Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise, his scrip and he that hath no SWORD, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
    Luke, 22:36

  3. #3
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    There is also a review of a book in the Non Fiction Forum that has a great chapter on Viking shields.

    Umm... Yes... I did review the book.

    Link to the review of "Viking Weapons & Warfare"
    "Swords Are Fun!" - Auld Dawg

    "A Sword For Show, But A Broadaxe For Dough." -
    Hagar The Horrible

  4. #4
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    They were typically of wood planks, sometimes laminated together, thickness ranged from roughly 1/2" to 1 1/4". They usually had metal boss in the center and often had metal band around edge (altho some purposely omitted band at edge expressly to catch a weapon momentarily stuck in the wood).
    A web search should turn up a # of sites.

  5. #5
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    Birka traders claims to have stats on historical shields that ranged down to less than half a centimeter in thickness.

    ...Which seems kind of unbelievably thin to me...

  6. #6
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    Viking shields were thin, but then they were disposable items. The use of an unrimmed shield to catch a blade allows the shield to be chewed up. In the formal duel, the holmgang, each fighter brought three shields with him. In Kormak's saga, all six shields are wrecked in the duel, which finishes off without them.
    NEM. PERV.T QUI N.N LEG.CERT.RIT

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by Dave K
    Birka traders claims to have stats on historical shields that ranged down to less than half a centimeter in thickness.

    ...Which seems kind of unbelievably thin to me...
    Saxon shields (on which I've seen more data) averaged 6mm thick, which is a quarter of an inch.

    This seems very thin, but it isn't, for two reasons,

    1) As Felix said, the shield (the wood bit anyway) was a disposable item. We tend to think of shields as tools that we want to be sturdy and to last a long time, because that's how we use them. They regarded them more like we would regard an airbag. It was a device that could save your life. If it did, then replacing it was a small price to pay.

    2) All our available historical evidence for how large shields were used suggests a style best suited to very light shields. The style also does not use the shield to directly oppose attacks, but rather to deflect them and to close off a fencing line. This style and our evidence for it, is documented in my article with Paul Wagner in SPADA, the anthology of articles on swordsmanship recently released by Chivalry Bookshelf.

    Whatever style you use a lighter shield is better. Some re-enactor friends of mine made Norman kite shields that weighed about 4lb for a two day battle event. As one of them said, "we so kicked arse". But the down side was that by the end of the weekend all of their shields were pretty much smashed to pieces. At the next re-enactment, they went back to heavier shields because as my friend said, they just couldn't afford to make a new shield for each battle. It's just one of the unrealistic elements of practising a lethal activity as a hobby.

    Cheers
    Stephen
    Last edited by Stephen Hand; 05-15-2003 at 04:53 AM.

  8. #8
    Just as a small correction there would not have been an unrimmed shield. An unrimmed shield would be junk with the first blow. The shields that blades would get caught in would have a rawhide or leather rim. Due to the disposable nature of these shields, I believe most would have had the rawhide or leather rim.

  9. #9
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    Fascinating.

    So much for 3/4" plywood...

    Maybe I'll finally try and make myself some.

    -Dave

  10. #10
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    Viking shields

    Hi Folks,

    All available evidence I have seen give the following stats.

    1. Made of 3 planks. Metal or wooden grip or composite of both.
    2. Not laminated (that was a bad observation from an archeologist (as usual) mistaking handle wood with shield wood under a rivit an thinking it was lamination.)
    3. Pretty thin, though sometimes covered in linen, or rawhide. 6mm at the edge with some evidence showing thicker at the centre.
    4. Thin bosses, not very good protection against an axe blow.
    5. Wood - linden, ash, some suggestion of oak(?) and other woods.
    6. Disposable, though with surprising durability if covered in raw hide or linen.
    7. Evidence for convex shape. This changes the center of gravity and how it handles, though does give little better durability.
    8. Hitting shields with sharp swords is probably stupid, from the sticking in point of view, and definately stupid from the technical point of view, unless you think/know their shield is about to fall to pieces.
    9. However you use a shield it should be light.
    10. The average size of viking shields is around 20 to 24 inches, and in the migration period about 18".
    11. Shields had names such as "Net of arrows" , "catcher of arrows".

    From Research done By Chris Halewood and Colin Richards 1982 to 1995.

    Colin Richards
    HEMAC Member
    Founder and Head Instructor at Arts of Mars Historical European Martial Arts Academy.
    Author: Fiore Dei Liberi 1409: Wrestling and Dagger (in two languages)
    DVD "Medieval Combat Italian Longsword - Student Guide 1" from the Treatises of Fiore dei Liberi 1409
    HEMAC member.
    Organiser International Open Championship 2008, 2010
    www.ArtsofMarsBooks.com
    www.ArtsofMars.com
    www.wwc.ArtsofMars.com


    There is no need of further discussion, when the Sword has the last word.

  11. #11
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    Dane,
    Don't know how much this will help you, but the link below will take you to an online reference site for medieval studies. Maybe some searching around there can lead to better info for you.

    Bill

    http://orb.rhodes.edu/

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